Friday, April 25, 2014

Fail... Or Is It??

If you read my last post, you know I am shooting some instant film. Not being one to leave well enough alone, I decided to try and recover the negatives from the Fujifilm FP-100c. This is pretty simple and Google can answer any questions you have about it. I'm writing this to talk about a 'mistake' I made so that you can benefit from my experience and not make it yourself (or do, depending on what you want your scans to look like).

Instead of using strong gaffer's tape as recommended, I used cheap painter's tape. This stuff is purposely not very sticky so that it doesn't remove paint from your walls. Needless to say, the bleach I was using (not a gel type) leaked under the tape and got on the emulsion side of the film. Then I tried to wipe it off. Then I put some water on it and tried to wipe that off.

Here is the result along with the original scan of the print. I think I like what happened to this negative, though I'm not sure I could reproduce it in any consistent way. But that is part of art, right? Experimenting and adding randomness can create beautiful things.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

New Life for a Square Shooter

Polaroid made lots of different cameras that used lots of different film formats. There were 2 different types of roll film, 3 types of pack film (peel apart) and 7 different types of integral film. There were also 2 different sheet films for large format cameras. Many of these cameras are still around in closets, attics, and drawers. Many of those make it to auction sites where they are sold (usually) for a fraction of their original price. A while back my father-in-law gave me an old Polaroid Land Camera - Square Shooter. This camera used Type 88 film which went out of production in 2006. So, do I toss the camera? Convert it to a single-shot or a pinhole. Of course not! There is still pack film being produced by Fuji. Unfortunately, it is for 100 series cameras and won't fit in my Square Shooter. But this thing is just made of plastic. Certainly there must be a way to mod the camera so that the Fujifilm FP-100c will fit, right? Right! And it turns out that it is super easy. There is a black plastic holder in the camera that holds the film pack. I wiggled that until it broke free. Toss that. Then there are some ridges or struts that hold the film pack. Those need to be cut, sanded or ground down. I used a rotary tool with a cut-off wheel and in about 90sec. that was done. Now the film fits. Make sure there are fresh batteries in there since the shutter is electronic. Load up the film, close the back, pull the dark slide paper and you are ready to go!! Easy Peasy! One thing to note is that the Type 88 film was iso 75 and the FP-100c is iso 100, so you might want to set the exposure dial on the front of the camera one step toward "Darken" so as not to over expose. Here is an example. Notice that the whole frame is not exposed. Remember, this is a "square" shooter, modified for rectangular film. The mask blocks part of the film so you will end up with black bars on one end of the photo. I like squares, so I am okay with this.

So dig out that old Polaroid Square Shooter or go grab one for cheap and start taking instant photos again. It's super fun!

This one was taken with the exposure compensation dialed down toward "darker".

This one was taken indoors under mostly fluorescent light with the exposure compensation dialed up one step toward "lighter".

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Springtime in San Diego

Here in San Diego, California we have two seasons. There is Warm Summer and Hot Summer. Right now we are still in Warm Summer as it is late April and Hot Summer doesn't really get here until late July. But I know that Hot Summer is coming because the Coral Trees are in bloom.

I took this photo with my Graflex Speed Graphic using the Optar 135, F/4.7 lens. I shot it on Kodak Clinic Select Green x-ray film and developed in 1:100 Adonal for 4.5 min standing. I hope you are enjoying the change of seasons where you are.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Landscape Details

Here are a few photos I took just around my workplace. The camera was my Yashica Electro 35 loaded with some expired Kodak Ektachrome Slide Duplicating Film. For these I used an EI of 100. These are pretty much straight off of the scanner with a little bit of dust spotting. Enjoy.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Dacomatic Recordak Film

I have been playing around with expired film recently. This is for a couple of reasons. First, it is economical and I am cheap. ;) Second, and more importantly, I like the look of grainy film. I wouldn't say that I am in the "more grain is better ad infinitum" camp, but I like photos with pronounced grain. In fact, back when I was shooting digital, I would often use grain 'filters' or plug-ins for my photos that needed that extra something. Looking back now, I am surprised that it took me so long to return to film photography, when that is what I wanted my photos to look like all along. As film ages, the ionic silver undergoes subtle chemical changes. The crystals merge and aggregate, cosmic rays and other radiation can 'expose' some crystals, etc. So the net effect is that the film speed (iso rating) gets lower, the grain gets bigger and the base fog becomes more noticeable. Some of this can be overcome when you develop your film if you are trying to get a 'cleaner' look from your expired film. I use one of two developers (Rodinal or Caffenol-CL), neither of which is very good at compensating for these side effects of elderly film. So I shoot the film and live with what I get, which is usually pretty close if not exactly the look I am going for.

Recently, I acquired a 400 foot roll of some well-expired 35mm film. It is Kodak Dacomatic A film, expired in Dec. 1973. I was only 6 years old when this expired!! I bought it on the big auction site and then started trying to figure out what iso it should be shot at and how in the world to develop it. Guess what, there's not much information out there on this film. From what I can gather it was made for use in the Kodak Recordak machine which was used for copying documents. Okay, so it's copy film. That will mean that it is probably high contrast, or at least it was in 1973. I did find one guy on Flickr that had used it and shot it at iso 6. Over on the FilmWasters forum (highly recommended) one of the guys wrote a desktop application that will calculate a reasonably accurate EI for expired film. You can download it HERE. Download those three files and run setup.exe. This application predicts an iso of 6 for film that was originally iso 100. Was that the original speed?? Who knows? Never being one for following rules, or even guidelines, I set my meter to iso 12 just to allow a little more reasonable shutter speeds. I should note that subsequently, another Filmwaster has exposed this same film at iso 80 and got very good results using Blufire HR developer from the Frugal Photographer. Anyway, I rolled some up in a reusable film canister. I had to do this in the dark since my daylight film loader will not hold a 400' roll. So I measured a piece of string as long as a 12-exposure roll of film and taped it to the counter in my darkroom (bathroom). Then I turned out the lights and measured out a piece of film as long as the string. I then taped that to the film spool and rolled it up. I threw this into my trusty old Nikkormat FTn and went out in the sun to find something to shoot. I found myself at The Scripps UCSD Medical Center where they have sculptures and fountains and buildings that might be photogenic.

Here are a couple of shots I took of a marble sculpture of a pair of robed figures looking at each other.

I developed in Caffenol-CL for 60min with no agitation after the first 30sec. You can see that the grain is 'pronounced', but not what I would call 'extreme' or distracting. This is the look I like and why I like to use expired film. Different films age in different ways and storage conditions play a big part in whether they are usable or not. If you are buying very old film (more than 5yrs past expiration) you probably want to verify with the seller that it was in cold storage. You may get an image out of film stored in a closet, but it will be pretty faint. Just experiment and have fun with these old stocks!

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Isolette III Overhaul part 1

I have never done my own CLA (Clean, Lube and Adjust) on a camera before, but I just recently got a wonderful Agfa Isolette III that has some problems. The Isolette III is a medium format folding camera with an uncoupled range finder. That means that when you look through it, you look through a range finder (not through the lens) that gives you a distance to your subject. You then transfer that distance reading to the focusing ring of the lens. A coupled range finder would have gears and levers that would move the focus mechanism on the lens for you when you adjusted the range finder. I like old mechanical, "figure it out yourself" kinds of cameras, so this one is perfect. It has good glass (an Apotar which is a good Cooke triplet) and the build quality is what you would expect from a mid-century German made camera (excellent). Now I mentioned that there are problems, and there are.
  • There is a light leak in the bellows, so the bellows will need to be replaced.
  • The wheel that turns to adjust the range finder is very stiff, probably from coagulated grease.
  • The focusing ring is completely frozen, probably from the same grease.
  • The shutter works, but the blades move very slowly.
This may seem a bit daunting at first, but there were so many of these cameras made and made well, that they are still around today in very good numbers. The problems I listed above are pretty common too, so there is a good amount of documentation on how to go about fixing these and bringing them back to their former glory, or maybe even making them better!

Instead of jumping right into the lens/shutter assembly, I thought I would start with the "easy" part of getting the top cover off and seeing if I couldn't get the range finder wheel to move a little more smoothly. Unfortunately, I couldn't find any documentation about removing the top cover on this model. But how hard could it be? There are a few screws. Take those out and the cover should lift right off, right??? Well, sort of. The two tiny screws that hold the distance/aperture reference ring on the left side are pretty straight forward and there is a larger screw under that. There is a tiny screw on the right end that has to come out as well. Then there is the film winding knob. There is a large screw in the middle of that. The slot in it is super thin and I didn't have a screwdriver with a narrow enough blade to unscrew it. I have some small screwdrivers, but they didn't provide enough leverage to loosen it. This thing was TIGHT! I went to the hardware store hoping to find something narrow and wide that would provide the leverage to get this thing out. No luck. So I tried the dull edge of a razor blade held in a pair of needle nose pliers. This fit the slot just fine, but after breaking every one, that screw had still not budged. So I thought I would use my rotary tool with a cut-off wheel to widen the slot on the screw just enough to get a regular screw driver in there and really apply some torque. So that's what I did. It didn't take much and I was able to get a regular screwdriver blade in there and really put some muscle to it. Still it wouldn't turn, not even a millimeter! I sat back and started contemplating how I was going to have to drill out the screw and find a replacement. I stared at that takeup spool knob with its little counter-clockwise arrow mocking me. Wait... the arrow... You turn the knob counter-clockwise to wind on the film. I wondered if maybe the screw turned the other way in order to keep it tight over time. Well anything was worth a try at this point. So I slotted the screwdriver blade and made a clockwise turn. BAM!!! It turned!!! Unbelievable. I had to give a little growl of protest to the ingenuity of the German engineer who came up with this brilliant idea that keeps the winding knob from getting loose. Klaus, wherever you are... Thank you, and I hate you.

So now the top was off. There is usually another internal cover over the optics of most range finder cameras. It helps to keep the dust out. This was no different. There were four screws visible and I started taking them out, not paying any attention to the piece of old cello tape that fell off of one of them. But when I got to that one, I noticed that it felt different. It wasn't coming out. I turned it back the same number of turns I had turned it out. It was not holding the cover on. It was an adjustment screw. It is in the center of the cover at the edge toward the back of the camera. The rest of the screws came out fine and the cover came off revealing the simple optics that make up the rangefinder. The glass needs some gentle cleaning, but I will be careful not to touch the half-mirror. It is coated and if you remove any of the coating, you will ruin the whole thing. I still need to get the thumb wheel off, clean off the grease and add a tiny bit of lithium grease, but that should be pretty straightforward. The only hitch will be getting the wheel off. It has a pin-screw head. That means instead of slots, it has tiny holes that require a special tool to loosen. Mine is on the way, so I should be getting that going very soon. Here is a photo of the camera with the top cover and the internal dust cover removed.

Stay tuned for more Isolette fun!